Tag Archive: racial discrimination


Now, my take on the last book from my summertime night table reading stack (see my post of July 11, 2021).  Daniel James Brown’s Facing The Mountain, A True Story of Japanese American Heroes in World War II” (Viking $30.00 9780525557401) recounts the reaction of our country at-large against Japanese Americans, in the wake of Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 – 80 years ago, next month, as I write this review. As I read the chapters, I couldn’t help but notice, and am awestruck by how much our Black- American and Japanese-American soldier’s World War II experiences have in-common.  You see, I am the son of a career U.S. Army man who fought within the 369th Field Artillery unit out of Harlem, U.S.A.  I remember him alluding to much similar discrimination by segregation within the U.S. Armed forces, even though the enemy’s bullets did not differentiate race when they found their mark. It would be like if Africa was one country and it attacked us, all suspected African Americans would be round-up and sent off to concentration camps.  The misplaced resentment against Japanese Americans also ran so deep, that even after the young Japanese American G.I. proved their patriotism in battle, they were not easily welcomed back home, to the point that one barber shop owner justified it by saying, “They all look alike to me.”  Hell, that’s what I heard said about black Americans back in the 1960s!
Brown’s spotless set-up straps you into your seat-belt for a six-part saga of a people mistrusted, who then excelled against all odds. Reading a chapter or so per night, I only closed the book to sleep and with anticipation of what the next Part would describe and I’m challenged here, to validly convey the accuracy and compassion of his reporting the events which led to the battlefield confrontations with Hitler’s forces in WWII.  What the doughty Nisei soldiers overcame should be read by every American, no matter your ethnic background – especially in these trying times.  One can truly see that, as the saying goes, “It could be a lot worse!” after reading this volume of valiance.
Chapter 19 is a standout exhale and great change of pace.  Brown even fills-in the blanks about what happened to the deep-voiced, late, great U.S. Senator from Hawaii, Daniel Inouye, who I noticed once on TV, had only one arm.  He is but one of many real characters we meet by name and family history in this true story. A personal glow came over me when I read page 382, about how one of the 442nd battalion’s assignments took them to Menton,  near the French Riviera, where they saw white zinnias among other beautiful flowers.  I sold zinnia flower seeds door-to-door in my neighborhood as a boy, to earn prizes depicted on the backs of the comic books I read and had forgotten all about that! “Mountain” contains many reminders of why history is as important to study now, more than ever, as he recounts how the inhumanity nationalistic madmen, bent upon world dominance, can inflict needless suffering upon other men, women and children – and which we, collectively, must never let happen again on our planet. Often chilling and painful to reflect upon, but always riveting, educational reading.  5 out-of-five WWII field artillery canons.

I’ve made it a point to live in a few cities which were unkind to my black American slavery ancestors, partly due to my years as a radio disc jockey and lately, just because we can now. The latest was in Virginia, the state which, ironically, is the setting for the 2016 movie, “Loving”, which I recently rented from the public library after seeing the trailer prior to a different film.

Directed by Jeff Nichols, this isn’t just a romance story as its title might suggest. The Lovings and this “Commonwealth” state were the centerpiece for a landmark US Supreme Court case, Loving v Virginia and the 1967 decision which erased laws that made interracial marriages criminally illegal in the United States. I didn’t know this – or probably forgot the nuances of that high school American history lesson – until watching this movie revived those facts. This was going on while I was a young teen growing up in New York City where everybody went steady with anybody you liked! Wow. Scary.

“I’m pregnant” are the first words uttered by Mildred, played by Ruth Negga (interesting surname for this type of story, don’t you think?) to which Richard Loving, played by Joel Edgerton (famous for his role in “Black Mass”) replied, “Good. That’s real good.” The progress of the story tries your patience to get into, but is worth the wait. It could be categorized a docu-drama and used as a teaching tool!

All through the film, I kept asking, “who ratted them out?” Getting rousted out of bed in the middle of the night and offed to jail by the mean ole KKK-ish sheriff, played to the hilt by Marton Csokas (“Noah”, “The Equalizer”, “Aeon Flux”), cold southern drawl and all. “That’s no good here..” – pretty good for a New Zelander – just for being in love. They even threw Mildred in jail while pregnant and in her bath robe! One thing that hasn’t changed to this day is a woman getting pregnant out of wedlock, I noticed. Richard didn’t hesitate to ‘make an honest woman’ out of Ruth, however. You’ll see some slightly amusing “city-country-city” cultural moments among the uncomfortable heartbreak.

This is a reminder of many shameful episodes of America’s racial integration past, the vestiges of which some among us still struggle to eradicate. Watching it conjured emotions of anger, sadness and resolute hope deep inside. I couldn’t help wondering if this is why Virginia gives me a kind of weird vibe sometimes; like suppressed parsimony is in its soil.

During the end credits, they show photos of the original couple portrayed and I cheered the Casting Director, Francine Maisler.

I feel this film with four stars and can’t help wondering how the Supreme Court would have ruled if the man was a black American and the woman Caucasian; would it have even gotten the same attention and to the Chief Justices?

Pickhit: Thank you to WordPress for noticing that this is the date of my 10th anniversary here. Thank you, dear reader for reading my words!

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